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Compliance Insights

How to Assess Compliance: 6 Steps To Take Today

VComply Editorial Team
Nov 3, 2021
10 minutes

Through this blog post, you’ll learn how to assess compliance, what assessing compliance means, and key considerations when starting to assess your current compliance posture.

Assessing compliance is an important step in formulating and creating a cohesive compliance management system within your organization. Learn how to assess compliance with these 6 steps.

Step 1: Plan Your assessment
Step 2: Conduct a compliance review
Step 3: Analyze Findings and Perform a Gap Assessment
Step 4: Review and Report to Key Stakeholders
Step 5: Develop a Plan to Improve Your Compliance Posture
Step 6: Adopt Compliance Management Tools

What Does “Assessing Compliance” Mean?  

It’s important to understand what assessing compliance actually means to your organization before jumping into the tactical execution of compliance program assessments.

A compliance assessment helps to identify and assess gaps between an organization’s existing controls and what needs to be done to achieve compliance goals. Basically, they show you the current state of compliance and are meant to provide actionable steps to improve an organization’s compliance posture.

Why it’s important to assess compliance? 

A recent Thomson Reuters study says that 78% of compliance leaders expect regulatory information to increase in the coming years. Since industry and regulatory requirements are constantly changing and updating, it’s important to regularly assess compliance to ensure your organization is meeting standards.

Additional benefits to assessing compliance regularly are:

  • Ensuring that your organization’s stakeholders and employees are adhering to internal and external policies and standards.
  • The peace of mind knowing that business-critical controls and programs are in place and effectively managed.
  • Being able to prove compliance and support that claim with an audit trail from each compliance assessment you perform.  

How to Assess Compliance 

It’s important to take a systematic approach as you start to assess compliance within your organization. We also recommend performing compliance assessments on a regular schedule and prioritizing any action items that may be needed to improve your compliance programs.

Step 1: Plan the Assessment  

The first step towards assessing compliance is to plan your assessment. Clearly define the scope of the assessment with the following considerations:  

  • Understand your organization’s compliance goals  
  • Determine a baseline for compliance benchmarking and KPIs  
  • Define compliance effectiveness in your organization’s context  
  • Decide who will do the assessment – Senior compliance executive or in some cases audit teams  

As you are preparing for your assessment, it’ll be key to gain the buy-in from the senior leadership team. Align on the goals and key KPI’s set during this phase. This will help your programs run more smoothly and see the maximum impact upon completion.

Step 2: Conduct A Compliance Review  

Once you’ve planned and set goals for your upcoming compliance assessment, the next step is to assess compliance throughout your organization.

An effective compliance evaluation should identify the strengths, vulnerabilities, and opportunities within a specific compliance area.  

Here are some of the key components to take into account when you are conducting your internal compliance assessment:

Standards, Policies, and Procedures

For each regulatory requirement that your organization must comply with, examine what related standards, policies, and procedures are implemented.

Oversight and Leadership

Evaluate whether senior leadership is aware of and is overseeing your organization’s compliance programs. Probe to see whether or not they are convinced about the effectiveness of each program.

Assessment of Current Risks

Assess whether or not organizational and compliance-related risks have been identified and if there are mitigation strategies in place for each risk.

Employee Training and Feedback

Review the last time training programs have been conducted to educate employees on your organization’s procedures and policies.

Evaluate whether or not employees are encouraged to report issues to the management team without fear.   

Please note: Depending on your organization. there may be more areas within your business that will need to be audited. We recommend working internally to gather each area that will need to be assessed.

Step 3: Analyze Findings and Perform a Gap Assessment  

After you’ve gathered all of your data from step 2, evaluate your current compliance posture. Be sure to document and maintain your findings in a centralized location.

  • Analyze what is needed to be fully compliant with the specific regulations and standards your organization must satisfy.
  • Document and review what your organization has in place today (From your findings in step 2)
  • Perform a gap assessment to identify the gaps between what is needed to be fully compliant and what your organization is doing today.

The more structured you can be the better. This will allow you to quickly and easily find and report on your findings. This analysis will also act as a benchmark for when you complete your next compliance assessment.

Step 4: Review and Report to Key Stakeholders 

After you’ve completed the assessment and identified gaps, report your findings to your organization’s leadership team, and key stakeholders. Highlight and explain existing gaps by providing context, supporting data, and documentation. 

Show how key performance areas are impacted by non-compliance and outline the risks involved. Focus on driving program goals, action steps, and outcomes.

If you have already gotten buy-in from your leadership team, this step will become much easier because they will already be on board. In either case, show how key performance areas are impacted by non-compliance and outline the risks involved.

Gather feedback from your leadership team and work together to create an action plan to improve your compliance posture. Focus on driving program goals, action steps, and outcomes.

Step 5: Develop a Plan to Improve Your Compliance Posture 

The last step in assessing your organization’s compliance is to develop a plan to improve your compliance posture and to mitigate risk.

Rank each gap and risk you have identified in terms of their business impact, ease of implementation, and risk level.

Address the critical items and develop a plan to address each compliance gap. Establish a centralized repository for compliance tasks and evidence collection.

For each action item that needs to be completed assign a responsibility owner in charge of completing these tasks. Be sure their performance is overseen so that way they complete their action items on time and with a high level of accuracy.

Step 6: Adopt Compliance Management Tools

Assessing compliance can be very complex especially when you take into account all of the steps needed to do it correctly. Using technology to not only manage the assessment process but also manage your compliance posture as a whole can reduce the complexity and time needed to ensure compliance.

Compliance management tools allow for the automation of manual tasks like managing responsibilities, reporting, and follow-ups.

Another great example is the ability to adapt to new compliance norms. As regulations are changing every day, it can be difficult for compliance officers to keep up. With the right tools, adapting to new regulations and conducting internal reviews and assessments can be managed easily.

Assess Compliance with VComply

VComply was built with the end-user in mind. Our easy-to-use, highly customizable compliance management tool will allow you to manage your compliance with ease it helps:

  • Gain one single source of truth for your compliance programs
  • Collaborate and assign tasks in one place
  • Automate workflows
  • Create compliance reports with a click of a button.

If you’re looking for a better way to manage governance, risk, and compliance in your organization, take a product tour of VComplyVComply offers a complete GRC management solution to help you streamline everyday compliance processes with a centrally managed, cloud-hosted system.

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